It’s Occupational Therapy Week 2020!
02 November 2020

It’s Occupational Therapy Week 2020!

Join us in celebrating the fantastic work of Occupational Therapists (OTs) across Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCFT).

OT Week 2020 runs from 2-8 November and is an opportunity to celebrate all things OT and highlight the role it has in people’s recovery and management of their health conditions.

This year’s theme is ‘Choose OT’ and aims to inspire people from all different backgrounds to pick occupational therapy as a career.

OT is often a misunderstood and misrepresented profession – it’s not just about equipment and green trousers! 

OTs are experts in occupations and occupational science. This means the activities that we all complete in our daily lives, ranging from specific tasks such as self-care, to those life roles that we all have whether as a carer, parent, son or daughter. They work with patient to look at how they approach these activities, and what barriers are preventing them from completing these tasks or roles. Taking into account both their physical and mental health, they support them to be able to do the everyday activities they need or want to do to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

At SCFT we have around 220 OTs working in both adult and children’s services across all our settings, not to mention our brilliant occupational therapy support staff, which includes OT Assistants and Technicians, Therapy Assistants and Therapy Practitioners.

Bethan Whittingham, Joint Occupational Therapy Professional Lead for Adults at SCFT said: “It is a really exciting time to be an occupational therapist. We have just recruited two OTs to work within Primary Care Networks, so they are based within GP surgeries, helping people to manage their conditions, stay as active as possible and continue with their daily lives. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, occupational therapists are at the forefront of the rehabilitation of patients and working with those with long term symptoms.”

Katie Roberts, Joint Occupational Therapy Professional Lead for Adults at SCFT added: “Occupational therapists work across so many specialities and there is so much diversity in our roles. We are key to multi-disciplinary working and linking across organisations.

“We are all about function, which means that we can move into different settings, adapt and keep using our core skills to promote participation in activity and occupational balance. You may start your OT career in one setting and end up working in a completely different area, but still use occupation as a foundation for intervention. So if you are lucky enough to be an OT, know an OT or work alongside an OT, think green this week and help us celebrate all that OTs have to offer.”

To help demonstrate the wide range of activities and support that our OTs provide across SCFT, some of our fantastic staff have spoken about why they chose OT and what they love about their job.

Read on to find out more!

Vicky Horrocks, Falls Specialist Practitioner

Why did you choose OT as a career?

Following my degree in Psychology I started working in the homeless sector.  A lot of the work related to identity, occupational engagement and life skills. I really enjoyed it but realised I needed more training and practical skills around how to work with people, especially those with multiple complex needs. This put me on the path to seek further education and I found an Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Brighton. I had not heard of occupational therapy before but after reading the course outline I felt it was a perfect match. That was the beginning of my journey.

What route did you take to get to your current role?

Once I completed my Masters I followed the road into mental health, starting a job in a secure forensic unit for adult women. I worked there for two years then chose to vary my experience by joining a community rehabilitation and admissions avoidance team. In the four years I worked for that team I learnt a range of new skills, and found I held interest in fields I had not necessarily thought of before; one being falls and fracture prevention, which is where I work now.

I am currently undergoing training in how to assess for, and treat vertigo, which is a role usually taken on by a physiotherapist. This just shows the versatility and scope of what occupational therapy can offer you.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the variety it offers – you can move around settings and learn all the time. It’s not just about raised toilet seats!I love working in a working multi-disciplinary team. And I love the moments you have with patients where you can see your advice and interventions have really made a difference.

Amanda Whistle, Occupational Therapist in Prosthetic Rehabilitation

Why did you choose OT as a career?

I wanted to help people to help themselves.  I was drawn to the variety of settings and jobs available to an occupational therapist.

What route did you take to get to your current role?

Amputee rehab has always been an area of interest; I jumped at the opportunity to work in prosthetic rehab at Sussex Rehab Centre.  Although I specialised in paediatrics, I have always worked with adults, mostly those over 65, until the role I am currently in at SRC.  In prosthetics I work with  patients across the lifespan, as this role encompasses paediatrics and adults. I see patients in clinics, as well as in their homes, drawing on my experiences from the acute hospital, hospice, and community settings.  

What do you love most about your job?

I love the setting and the team – patients come to SRC to gain their independence and mobility back.  Most of my patients have
lower limb loss, so this means transitioning from wheelchair mobility to walking again.  I enjoy visits when the patient is first allowed to use the prosthesis at home –to be there when the patient walks at home again, rather than using a wheelchair is such a great moment!

Anne Louise de Waal, Falls and Fracture Prevention Practitioner

Why did you choose OT as a career?

I knew I wanted to do something that helped people and something hands on. I wanted to find a vocation; something I cared about.

I’ve always been interested in human behaviour, communication and what motivates us.  I’m often amazed by the human spirit and how we can overcome difficult situations and change for the better. 

I didn’t discover OT until my early 20s, when I noticed a sign in a hospital unit. It was never mentioned at school or college during career talks. Once I started reading about OT I was attracted to its variety, its practical, problem solving nature and emphasis on independence and quality of life.

What route did you take to get to your current role?

I’m about to start a new role as an OT in primary care, working with people living with frailty.  It feels like quite a challenge as it’s a pilot with lots of unknowns, but it’s exciting as an opportunity to create a new service and really think about how OT is going to help this community.

I think all my previous experiences have helped me to get to this current role, but particularly my experience as a falls and fracture prevention practitioner, as it considers a lot of the symptoms and functional changes associated with frailty and has really shown me what can be achieved in a successful multidisciplinary team.  

I’ve kept at open mind about what area of OT to work in and have been grateful to have had experiences in physical and mental health, inpatient and community settings. I’ve always had a particular interest in older people’s health though and a natural affinity to working with older people, building a rapport and putting people at ease.            

What do you love most about your job?

I love witnessing that moment when a person starts to believe in themselves more. When they achieve a meaningful goal and grow in confidence. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of and know that you helped to influence that change. 

I also love being able to reassure a person, give them hope. Sometimes it’s as simple as just listening.

Sally White, Occupational Therapist with the Hospital Rapid Discharge Team – A&E

Why did you choose OT as a career?

I have worked for the NHS since 1990 and was inspired to train as an OT when I worked as a secretary in the psychology department at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Part of my role was to help with the running of a pain management programme, a six week programme for patients with chronic pain which involved an OT, physiotherapist and psychologist.

I was interested in the role of the OT, who taught patients various strategies to deal with their everyday tasks, such as techniques and equipment for getting washed and dressed, preparing and cooking food, and also ways of pacing and relaxing to make their lives easier.  I saw what a difference this made to the patients, which in turn made their daily lives and pain easier to manage.

What route did you take to get to your current role?

I went to the University of Brighton to complete a part time degree in occupational therapy while continuing to work as a secretary. My course involved practical placements in different settings each year. My placements were in acute stroke, responsive services, community rehabilitation and acute mental health, and I qualified in 2015.

When I qualified I worked at the Princess Royal Hospital on various wards. My job involved the care and safe discharge of patients. I then worked at Horsham Hospital on a rehabilitation ward before coming back to the Princess Royal Hospital to work in a discharge team in A&E called HRDT – Hospital Rapid Discharge Team. The aim of our team is to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions by assessing patients who are medically ready to be discharged.

We see patients over the age of 75, and sometimes younger if the need arises. We are a team of OTs and physiotherapists who assess a patient to see if they can be discharged home safely. We try to promote a patient’s independence by enabling them to do the things they want to do on their own whenever possible. We provide the equipment they need and arrange for the care they need at home if required, and we work with teams in the community who are able to continue with their care when they return home. 

What do you love most about your job?

I enjoy meeting new patients every day and working with the team of nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors and consultants in A&E to provide care in a multi-disciplinary way. We work with patients at a time when they may be feeling vulnerable or distressed, but it can be very rewarding to help patients return home and prevent them from being admitted to hospital. A&E can be a very busy and continually changing environment to work in and can be challenging at times but I really enjoy working there and feel a very valued member of the team.   

Hannah Short, Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Why did you choose OT as a career?

Originally I chose nursing to follow in my mother’s footsteps. We briefly spoke about OT when looking around universities but she always brushed it off as “basket weaving!”

It was only when I had a student nursing placement on a spinal injuries unit that I really got a grasp of what OT is. I was amazed by how simple solutions can be the difference between dependence and independence. From that moment I knew I wanted to change paths and focus on support people to live their lives as fully and independently as possible.

What route did you take to get to your current role?

I chose to go down the traditional route of acute rotations, I worked on fast-paced medical and surgical wards which definitely helped me to develop my prioritisation skills.

Following on from here I chose to explore community working and took a job working for the council within the regaining independence service. I really enjoyed community working and loved the rehab side to this role.

Throughout my time studying, I always felt that eventually I wanted to end up working with children. However, I had little previous experience in this field and sadly didn’t get a children’s placement at university. I was also aware how difficult it is to get an OT role working with children, so I felt that it would never happen for me. To see an opportunity arise in Crawley was really exciting and to be offered the job was even more exciting!

What do you love most about your job?

It’s still the ‘simple solution equals a huge difference’ moments that I love. For example, an older child who has been struggling to use a knife and fork for years and needs parents to help cut food up. To simply try a different style of cutlery with them and see the difference it makes is fantastic.

I also love how children are little sponges for information and have so much potential.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a supportive and very knowledgeable multi-disciplinary team and I genuinely enjoy coming into work every day.

West Therapy Hub

>And finally, some of the team at our West Therapy Hub - Tenar Batty, Cerys Jones, Ali Fleming and Jane Booth - also wanted to get in on the celebrations.

The team works with people in their own homes to provide short term rehabilitation and provide focused intervention to help people achieve specific goals. They can also offer support to help patients avoid being admitted to hospital, and where someone has been in hospital they can support their discharge back home.

Their aim is to support people to be independent and achieve what is important to them.

Here they are demonstrating the use of leg lifters, which can be prescribed help people independently move in and out of bed, or when using a bath boards – a way of getting in and out of the bath without having to step in and out.


Find out more

For more information about careers in occupational therapy visit the NHS Healthcare Careers website.

Already qualified? Check out our current vacancies